Saturday, May 31, 2003

All About Kelly

I'm happy to report that while Kelly's teeth have been coming in unexpectedly fast, crowding out her baby teeth, she is in good shape. This according to a dentist who specializes in kids' teeth development. He assured Jean that he doesn't like to pull teeth, and thinks that he can save all her adult teeth. She's going into braces soon, and will be in braces or retainers for three years or so. I'll report further when she gets fitted. On the bright side, at least two leading female cartoon characters that she watches regularly wear braces!

Behaviorally she's a bit on the deficit side. We had a conference with her teachers yesterday, and while I'm sure they tend to overemphasize conformance, they seemed genuinely concerned that Kelly isn't bonding with her classmates, and is given to arguing everything.

I'm joining the dreaded line of soccer moms on Monday and dropping her off at the crosswalk (which I find very annoying). This is because her school counselor wants Kelly to come in with her fellow students instead of being escorted by Dad.

In addition, Kelly is going to see a kid counselor to help her work on being more of a 'team player'. Come Fall, we'll be having another meeting with the teachers to set measurable goals.

Another light note: Kelly cleaned out enough of the junk pile in her room to make space for the old Powermac 8500 that's been displaced from my room. I spent the better part of the day moving hardware around, vacuuming dusty corners, and rearranging furniture. The den looks a bit tidier, and Kelly has a computer of her own.

I dismantled some modular wire shelves in the den, and Kelly put them back together herself for her room. Of course, there's really no place to put it, so she put it in front of another shelf in her room. There's now approximately one postage stamp's worth of standing room in her bedroom.

Finally, I took a second shower to get all the grunge off. When I took off my shirt, all I smelled was dust! Ugghhh!

And I did all this lowly sysadmin crap with a strained back. Am I a moron or what?

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Latest Music Purchase

Can't stay away! Here's my latest purchase of music online...

  • Respect - Aretha Franklin

  • Fly Me to the Moon - Astrud Gilberto

  • Garota De Ipanema (Single) - Joao Gilberto & Stan Getz (but really Astrud)

  • Take Five - Dave Brubeck

  • Greatest Hits - The Doors

    • Hello, I Love You

    • Light My Fire

    • People Are Strange

    • Love Me Two Times

    • Riders On the Storm

    • Break On Through

    • Roadhouse Blues

    • Touch Me

    • L.A. Woman

    • Love Her Madly

    • The Ghost Song

    • The End

  • Strange Days - The Doors

  • Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile) - Gato Barbieri

  • Play on Love - Jefferson Starship

  • Up against the Wall, Red Neck Mother - Jerry Jeff Walker

  • A Kiss to Build a Dream On (Single) - Louis Armstrong

  • I Try - Macy Gray

  • I Heard It through the Grapevine (Single) - Marvin Gaye

  • Soul Bossa Nova (Original Mix) - Quincy Jones & His Orchestra

  • Come Back Baby - Ray Charles

Monday, May 26, 2003

Dungeon Siege

I've enjoyed puttering about with Diablo II, so when I saw that Dungeon Siege was out for the Mac, I asked my friend Alan if he thought it was worth buying, since he's had it for ages, being on Wintel. The verdict was thumbs up, so I decided to buy it.

Kelly was immediately pushing me to play it -- for us to play it, rather. So last night I sat down with her and fired it up. You can guess what happened, can't you?

$50 game, on a brand new 1Ghz G4 Macintosh. 3-D rendered environment, lotsa big-bad-uglies invading poor innocent farmholds. What does Kelly do? She chases the chickens!

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


I think the mistakes I’ve made in my own life have plagued me, but they’re pretty boring mistakes: I committed a series of grisly murders in the eighties and I think I once owned a Wilson-Phillips Album.

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose

I got to thinking about the computer I'm about to retire, and realized that I ought to share the naming scheme in my house. I get to name all the computers since I'm the computer-literate geek. Since I'm also into anime, the computers tend to get anime names. You can sort of see the history of anime by the names of the computers in their order of acquisition:

  1. Powermac 8500/120 - Ryoko (Tenchi Muyou)

  2. Blueberry iBook - Ryo-Oki (Tenchi Muyou) ('cause it's smaller!)

  3. iMac (all-in-one) - Haruko (FLCL)

  4. iMac (iLamp) - Megumi (Cheeky Angel)

I wonder what show I'll be infatuated with the next time I buy a computer?

I Can't Win

I've been warning Kelly for weeks now that she ought to clear a space in her room if she wanted to inherit the Powermac 8500 when I replaced it with the new iMac. The idea is to give her ready access to a machine to play Freddy Fish and Putt Putt games when the kitchen computer is tied up, since I have no intention of letting her install a bunch of games on my new computer.

So I was searching for something on the Internet (the lyrics to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", if you must know), when Kelly walks in and says "I'll take that computer when you want to get rid of it!"


Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The Long March

I just picked up my new computer!

It's a 17" LCD iMac. So far everything's good. I mainly have to resist the temptation to try to configure it entirely tonight. I really have a couple of week's worth of work, if I pace myself properly.

Anyway, I transferred all my iTunes music over from my laptop and have been listening while I work. Lotsa fun.

Apple iTunes Music Store, Round Two

My second selection contains a few more redneck rock'n'roll tunes:

  • A Shot in the Dark - Henry Mancini

  • Black Betty - Ram Jam

  • Classical Gas - Mason Williams

  • Dixie Chicken - Little Feat

  • Hear Me Calling - Ten Years After

  • Radar Love - Golden Earring

  • Twilight Zone - Golden Earring

  • She's So High - Tal Bachman

  • Summertime Blues - Blue Cheer

  • Tubular Bells (Opening Theme) - Mike Oldfield

  • The Police: Every Breath You Take - The Classics

    • Roxanne

    • Can't Stand Losing You

    • Message in a Bottle

    • Walking on the Moon

    • Don't Stand So Close to Me (Original)

    • De Do Do Do, De da da Da

    • Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

    • Invisible Sun

    • Spirits in the Material World

    • Every Breath You Take

    • King of Pain

    • Wrapped Around Your Finger

    • Don't Stand So Close to Me '86

    • Message in a Bottle (New Classic Rock Mix)

And in my Shopping Cart for the next round:

  • Come Back Baby - Ray Charles

  • Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile) - Gato Barbieri

  • I Heard It through the Grapevine (Single) - Marvin Gaye

  • I Try - Macy Gray

  • Play on Love - Jefferson Starship

  • Respect - Aretha Franklin

  • Soul Bossa Nova (Original Mix) - Quincy Jones & His Orchestra

  • Take Five - Dave Brubeck

  • The End - The Doors

  • Up against the Wall, Red Neck Mother - Jerry Jeff Walker

Monday, May 19, 2003


This week's Photo of the Week on sent my memories back to Disneyland, specifically this moment. Now I'm glad I took photos.

The One

If I haven't lived up to the title of Uber Geek before, I did it this weekend, going to see The Matrix Reloaded twice. I went once with Tom and Alan on Friday, then again with Alan, James, John, Lisa, Bo, Dan and Heather on Saturday after NOVA.

I was entertained just fine, and amused by the fanboy gripes and mainstream criticism of the movie. The parallels between the second Matrix movie and the second Star Wars movie (excuse me, the fifth Star Wars movie) are striking in this regard. After seeing the first movie a bajillion times, fans had imprinted the universe on their brains, filling in the gaps with their personal visions of what lay at the periphery. Then the second movie came out, and the director's vision intruded on that sacred image. Much complaining ensued.

Secondly, the follow-up is not a self-contained movie like the first, leaving our heroes hanging, having had their butts handed to them, or at least being told that everything they knew was wrong, and all they know and love is about to be kicked to Flinders. Now they get to wait several excruciating months to resolve their pain...

The replacement actors were actually quite good. Jada Pinkett Smith as Captain Niobe was given an abbreviated role, but did with it much better than I imagine Aaliyah would have done, judging from her performances in Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned. Aaliyah of course died before shooting on MatrixII started, so we got Jada.

More interesting to me was the role of Seraph. This role was originally offered to Jet Li, but he turned it down since it conflicted with several movies he had lined up, including Cradle 2 the Grave (ho hum) in the U.S., and Hero in Hong Kong.

So instead we got Sing Ngai (billed as Collin Chou). He was pretty good, given his brief screen time, and I hope he gets more in the next movie. Amusingly enough, many of his screen credits are in Hong Kong movies starring Jet Li.

I could babble on for ages, but I'll cut this short so I can get ready for work. Suffice to say that this was just as much fun for me as the first movie. I'm looking forward to The Matrix Revolution.

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Apple Tunes

Pascale posted her first purchases from the Apple iTunes Music Store (check the comments section), so I thought I'd share mine as well:

  • Piece of My Heart - Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin)

  • Going Back to New Orleans - Dr. John

  • What I Am - Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians

  • Viva Las Vegas - Elvis Presley

  • Missing - Everything But the Girl

  • Largo Al Factotum (Figaro) - Gioachino Rossini

  • Illegal Smile - John Prine

  • Mack the Knife - Louis Armstrong

  • Hair - Original Broadway Soundtrack

  • Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker) - Parliament

  • Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

  • Una Furtiva Lagrima - L'elisir D'amore

  • When Doves Cry - Prince

  • Dragula - Rob Zombie

  • Hear Me Calling - Ten Years After

And I've already got more tunes queued up, for my next paycheck:

  • Up On Cripple Creek - The Band

  • Summertime Blues - Blue Cheer

  • Dixie Chicken - Little Feat

  • Classical Gas - Mason Williams

  • Tubular Bells - Mike Oldfield

So Pascale is right. The trick is avoiding the temptation to buy everything that comes to mind!

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

New Worlds

In contrast, the uncanny in Harrison is very precisely modulated by strong plot. The thing is, though, that it tends to be happening just off stage. The stories are the messy, contingent, particular, organic journeys through and around narratives. It's the journey we follow, not "the plot" -- but without that plot, there'd be no journey.

From China Mieville's introduction to Things That Never Happen, by M. John Harrison

I recently checked out a book from the local library, The Centauri Device, written many years ago by M. John Harrrison. The book is in fact out of print now. Some weblog or other had noted Harrison's quirky style, and I found the name familiar, so I hunted down what was available via the library system and found exactly two titles, this one and the one whose introduction I quote above.

Well, The Centauri Device is rather arch and self-conscious, while aiming for a more plebian gutter-poetry. The part I got through reminded me of Samuel R. Delany, more specifically his early fantasy/science fiction works like The Einstein Intersection, and later (and better) Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Unfortunately, it's these comparisons which sank the book for me. I couldn't finish it, because I could remember, however vaguely, other books quite like it, which were so superior I simply didn't have the patience to continue.

Now this is probably unfair. I read those Delany books when I was in the bloom of youth, up through young adulthood. They have an inevitable gloss of nostalgia about them. But I'm pretty sure they were better, by a far cry, than The Centauri Device.

So I moved on to the short story collection, thinking I might be able to appreciate M. John Harrison better in smaller doses. It's there, in Things That Never Happen, that I learned that Harrison was one of the writers during Michael Moorcock's stint as editor of New Worlds, ushering in the revolutionary era of New Wave Science Fiction, which emphasized literary qualities over the science and McGuffins of the day. Perhaps this is where I remember him from. In any case, it is with a kind of shock that I look back and see how much my reading habits have changed.

From before high school to sometime in my early adulthood I often read big, fat books that ran 600 to a thousand pages without blinking an eye. I read The Lord of the Rings through twice in one summer, for example. I also read long, rambling, unresolved stories which I believe originated in the New Wave movement. Lots of Aldiss, Spinrad, Ellison, Moorcock, definitely J. G. Ballard! I think probably even Gene Wolfe could have been included in this company, and I really enjoyed his works, from his Book of the New Sun quartet to his absolutely wonderful collection of ambiguous short stories, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories, and Other Stories (yes, that's the real title).

What's the point of this ramble? It is captured in that little gem of a paragraph by China Mieville above. Those stories were about the journey, rather than the resolution of a conflict. A story existed for our characters, but we were only privy to bits and pieces of it. It was always a bit like seeing Hamlet entirely as incidental action in the background, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern muck about with their own petty concerns, never getting any kind of answer to their questions.

I used to love these kind of stories, and in fact seemed to have a brain hardwired for them. I honestly recall watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time, and fully understanding it, what it was about, the broad themes, and the fact that the unexplained elements didn't matter. Maybe it didn't happen that way, but the fact I remember it that way illustrates my predilections from my early years.

So I picked up Things with a whiff of nostalgia, and a bit of trepidation as well. I don't read big, fat books anymore, and I certainly tend to pick books with a beginning, a middle and an end, more often than not. Just to be on the safe side, I picked a story somewhere in the middle of the book (before even reading the introduction), basing my choice on the fact that it was only ten pages long. I read The Quarry at the YMCA, while Kelly attended her swimming class. Reaching the end of the story, my first reaction was, "So?" Oh dear, that's not good. Is it me? I was afraid I would return the book to the library without so much as a second chance.

Kelly wasn't finished, though, so I browsed the endpapers and found that The Great God Pan was considered a great story. At my next opportunity I read it, and it was quintessential New Wave. Very literary, ambiguous, hinting at things we are never told. I was taken back to those halcyon days of yore. For a moment I was transported. I set the book aside and began to think about much of what I've set down here in my rambling way. I went on to read the introduction, and the quote at the head of this article struck me particulary hard. This is what I used to strive for when finding books.

I still appreciate artful ambiguity in storytelling, if it isn't an excuse for the author not really having a story to tell. But now the 'journey' can be tiring, leaving me anxious ("are we there yet?") if it wanders on too long. The pace of my life, or rather the volume, seems to be too distracting to allow long reveries. If I picked up Delany's Dhalgren today, a book I pored over lovingly when it was first out, I would no doubt read the first few chapters, then reluctantly put it down. I know that were I to pursue it doggedly, it would be a matter of a chapter a night for the first week, ten or twenty pages each over the next week, then a mute accusing book on a pile of other books I've never finished. So I admit I've changed and move on. Structured books, beginning, middle, end. Shorter books, less than five hundred pages most times. Often non-fiction (anything more ambiguous and unresolved than real life?).

I should mention that I also attempted to read a book by China Mieville recently. Perdido Street Station was getting a lot of buzz, so I got it from the library. Thick 700 page book. The protagonist seemed kin to Ignatius Reilly ala Confederacy of Dunces, only in a fantasy setting. What is it with science fiction and the flawed character? Anyway, I could see that in another life, I'd have enjoyed it, but not this one. Back on to the library with it.

Now you know why I get so many of the books I try to read from the library.

Thursday, May 1, 2003

iTunes Music Store

Yesterday I had my laptop at work, and decided to take the plunge, in a minimal, experimental fashion, by buying around $15 worth of tunes off of the Apple iTunes Music Store. The iTunes 4 interface is great, and browsing is relatively easy. Honestly, searching for tunes that I would regularly listen to, I found that they missed more than 70% of the time. I was doing searches of things I'd already bought on CD or LP over the last thirty years, things which I had found successfully on Napster.

Still, they have plenty of music I do like, and as I'm only paying for the tunes I want, I can hardly complain about the ones I can't find -- yet. So I did a bit of browsing, adding items to my shopping cart, trying to keep a diverse range of selections so as to test out the codec for fidelity. I got everything from Elvis' "Viva Las Vegas" to a nice version of "Una Furtiva Lagrima". "Missing", by the retro duo Everything But the Girl is particularly nice.

I went to pay, and entered computer limbo. Apple kept telling me that there were changes in my online account that I needed to approve. But the form they put up had no invalid info that I could see, and indicated no changed fields. I approved it, tried to buy again, and back to the form!

Finally, I created a new account just for the music. That worked, and in no time flat I was listening to my new tunes. Someday I'm gonna have to buy an iPod, as my laptop is one of the original Blueberry iBooks, and has very limited storage, so it's a temporary solution to hauling my tunes to work.

Will I buy again? I'm thinking yes. Probably about an album's worth of music a month, until the novelty wears off. The key here is that I get to do this ala carte, like Napster (though with a much more limited choice than Napster gave me). Once again, having an online catalog which doesn't try to cram ten songs that suck down my throat in order to get two songs I like, is a huge advantage which reboots my enthusiasm for fresh music acquisition.